Gorbachev, in his first White House visit in 1987, got his initiation into the Oval Office media sport of the shouted question, where waves of media line up behind the furniture for a "photo opportunity" during which pictures are to be made of The Leaders and questions are not to be asked. Reporters, as they do at all these events, in 1987 asked their questions anyway and then-President Ronald Reagan declined to answer. But not Gorbachev, who held forth in some detail then.
This time around, Gorbachev is more amenable to the Bush example inside the Oval Office. The same shouted-question routine occurred yesterday, led as usual by United Press International's Helen Thomas. But Bush had advised Gorbachev of his rules that in photo opportunities, he didn't have to answer questions. The leaders joked that their agreement to brush aside the questions was their first pact of the summit.
True to his reputation as a leader who rarely misses an American television camera, however, the Soviet leader made up for his silence later. Entering the White House for his second meeting -- this time down the driveway to the West Wing rather than through the formal diplomatic entrance -- Gorbachev walked over to the waiting press.
Two hours later, as he was leaving, he went back to reporters and said, "I would like to invite Ms. Thomas because I promised that I will answer a question from her." He then answered several more questions, offering the first truly authoritative account of the day's meetings. All other accounts came from people who were briefed by people who were briefed by people in the room.
Knowing the value of the last word, White House aides quickly improvised and arranged for Bush, who had been watching Gorbachev live on television inside, to show up in the Rose Garden to make some statements of his own.